Tag Archives: leadership

Bushwalking Skills | Making a Bushwalking Aide-memoire

Do you lead bushwalks? Thought about carrying an aide-memoire  for emergencies? What resources will you need?

In the nineties, when I was actively upgrading my bushwalk leadership qualifications, I kept an aide-memoire to help me remember the key points of bushwalking for in-the-field examinations. This was initially kept in several “Granny’s brag books”,  4″ x 6″ photo albums with the cardboard stiffeners removed and with the individual plastic pockets sealed, then progressed to a Sharp Organiser, then to a Palm PDA and finally to my Nokia Smartphone, before being archived to a wiki (see link above). To keep the number of “album” pages to a minimum, the text was reduced to 7 pt.

The first aid was collated from Senior First Aid courses which I did with St John’s and the Red Cross, with additional information added from wilderness first aid courses and books I had read.

 Disclaimer: Although I culled information, which I knew was out-of-date, when I first set up this wiki, I have not updated the first aid information for the last few years, and as some things change every few years eg snake bite and EAR, the aide-memoire needs to be checked with an up-to-date first aid manual.

For many years, I carried this information, in note form, as a resource for emergencies, especially when leading bushwalks to remote areas of Australia. You might find such a concept useful, and perhaps be able to use the topic outline as  a worthwhile starting point.

If I was making one today, I would add it as a pdf to my Smartphone, which I usually carry with me. You could of course use your camera-equipped smartphone to copy relevant pages from books and save as a photo album. If you carry a Kindle with you, for your light reading, you have another alternative. However, in a pinch, I think “Granny’s brag book” would prove to be the most reliable of them all!

Recently I have added some excellent  leadership articles by Rick Curtis (Director, Outdoor Action Program), which no longer seem to be online at his website. This material is the Group Development and Leadership Chapter from his Outdoor Action Program Leader’s Manual. You can find some of the more useful articles in the sidebar to the right, under Bushwalking Resources, and the rest in my wiki. The text may be freely distributed for nonprofit educational use. However, if included in publications, written or electronic, attributions must be made to the author. Commercial use of this material is prohibited without express written permission from the author. Copyright © 1995 Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University.

I’d love to know if you carry an “aide-memoire”, what type and what it contains.

Other related leadership articles
See Categories or Labels in the sidebar on the right.

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Bushwalking Workflow | Campsite Selection, Set Up and Pack away.

What do you look for in the ideal campsite? How important is water? What about shade? When should I set up? What is the sequence of unpacking? How do I select a campfire or toilet site? Minimal impact camping and its implications for bushwalkers.

Camp Early

 I always like to get into a campsite in winter by about 3.30 or certainly no later than 4.30 pm. This gives me time to make a cup of tea, find where the nearest water is, put up my tent  and perhaps even have a brief nap before dinner. I like to begin making my dinner in daylight.

Use established or natural campsites

Your campsite may be in a Park, require a permit and have special regulations. Check before you go.

Those of us who walk in wilderness, untracked areas, can choose to camp wherever there is a natural campsite. We should of course never clear an area and preferably should use a site that someone has used before. At the most, you should sweep away fallen twigs and loose stones, so you don’t have an uncomfortable night. Good advice is only to spend one night in each campsite so the site doesn’t get too damaged.

Not like the old days, when the first step was to cut down a few saplings to make tent poles and pegs, then sufficient bushes to make a thick mattress and finally wood for the fire!

Select sites with shelter, water and wood

“Select sites with shelter, water and wood” is the traditional advice which was once given to bushwalkers.

I can remember always looking for a campsite with lots of fallen logs which could be used for a campfire, but I wouldn’t advise this anymore. Firstly there are too many campsites which are bare, as the result of campers collecting all the fallen wood for their fires and this has been recognised many Parks Authorities, who now insist on the use of fuel stoves. A bare campsite can only mean that all shelters for local animals have been destroyed. Fallen timber does of course mean that the trees nearby are regularly dropping branches, which means that it is not a good idea to camp under them. Too many people have been killed by fallen gum tree branches!

Shelter is of course necessary from the wind and perhaps sun.

Water should be close, but campers are always advised not camp to next to creeks and especially waterholes due to the possibility that you may prevent local wildlife from reaching their normal water supply. Camping too close is likely to increase the chance of pollution and you are recommended to camp at least 100m away. Most of use carry water bags (wine cask bladders for Australians) which can be filled and carried back to camp.

My favourite is the MSR Dromedary bag which come in a variety of sizes, have a wide mouth opening to make it easy to fill and attach your filtration pump,  have a 3-in-1 cap, and  hydration and solar kits, so they can be multi-purpose. They are very tough and versatile having lasted me for 15 years at least.

Check for potential hazards: overhanging gum trees, flash floods, polluted water

In Australia, and no doubt many other countries, camping in a dry creek bed or narrow gorge is not a good idea, due to the risk of flash flooding.  Camp well above the flood plain. If you find a waterhole with a dead animal in it, then you will need to boil the water or purify it in some other way or move to another location. Check your water for suspended mica which may cause diarrhoea, although I have never found it caused this.

Minimal Impact Camping

If you do have a campfire, make sure you dig a hole for it first and cover this fully before you leave in the morning.

  • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
  • Do not create new fire-pits.
  • Burn all wood and coals to ash. 
  • Put the fire out completely with water and bury under soil.
  • Clean out campfire rings after use, leaving no glass, alfoil or plastics
  • Don’t construct camp furniture or dig trenches around your tent for drainage.
  • Don’t feed native animals and store rubbish securely

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints …” should apply to your campsite.


On Arrival

As soon as you arrive, when there are no established toilet facilities, assign an area well away from water, with some privacy and let everyone know the location. If you have both males and females in your group you might like to assign two areas.

Suggest suitable camping areas, indicate where the water is located and where the cooking area and perhaps campfire, if you’re having one, will be located.

I always start by putting up my tent as soon as I arrive, especially if it looks like possible rain. My gear, that I will need for the night, comes out of my pack into my tent which I then drag it into the vestibule to keep it out of the rain once I have done this. If it is raining already, I wait until there is a break in the weather, before taking out my tent. If it is sunny, my first step is to put on the stove for a cup of tea.

Next I take out my mattress, put it inside my tent and inflate it if needed or wait for it to self-inflate. My sleeping bag goes on top, I take out my torch and warm clothing for when the sun sets, get out my cutlery, meal, cooking utensils, stove, lighter and grippers. I then zip up my tent to keep out insects.

Time now to chat to others, fill up my water bag, take a few photos, select the meal spot and help where needed with set up. A good meal site will have seating for everyone, a flat, clear area for the stoves and shelter, although as I have said before under a gum tree is not a good idea.

Before leaving

  • Inspect your campsite and rest areas for rubbish and spilled food. 
  • Check no one has left belongings eg hanging from clothes lines.
  • Do not burn rubbish. “Pack it in, pack it out.” In some environments eg narrow, popular, river gorges this could even mean faecal material.
  • Clean out campfire rings after use, leaving no glass, alfoil or plastics

A good reference is the A Guide to Better Bushwalking from Bushwalking Leadership SA , which has a  couple of excellent pages on environmental considerations.

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    Bushwalk Leadership Training | Accredited Courses for South Australians

    Some Accredited Courses for South Australian Bushwalkers

    Bushwalking Leadership SA

    Bushwalking Leadership SA (BLSA) offers two programs

    1. Day Walk Leadership Program.

    “The Day Walk Leadership program is similar to the Bushwalking Leadership Program but differs in that it prepares leaders for Day walks only. It does not cover camp site management, extended navigation and , of course, overnight management. It does assume some experience of day walking but also can taken as an introduction to bushwalking leadership.The day walking leader program has four components, is flexible and designed to meet the needs of particular groups such as walking clubs and community groups. As such it is usually run on an ‘as needed’ basis.”

    1. Theory component which can be run either as short evening sessions or as a full day session.
    2. Weekend field instruction and experience trip where navigation, search and rescue, group management and extended, overnight care is covered.
    3. Completion of a number experience walks where another leader is observed in varying conditions
    4. Finally an assessment is completed which comprises a theory test and a group management assessment walk.

    2.  The Bushwalking Leadership Program leading to the Advanced Bushwalk Leader’s Certificate (see below)

    The Bushwalking Leadership Program is open to any walker who has had experience and or training in overnight bushwalking. It is primarily a LEADERSHIP course for leading groups on overnight walks and assumes that applicants are already competent bushwalkers.

    1. Assistant Bushwalking Leader Certificate (BLSA)

    This 7 day residential course provides instruction in navigation and map reading, addresses issues of group management, leadership, trip planning and emergency procedures including search and rescue techniques. The last 3 days of this course put theory into practice with a self reliant bush walk.

    2. Interim training:

    Candidates are required to complete a range of walks in different environmental conditions and with different groups. An Adviser is allocated to each candidate to provide assistance and guidance as required. The interim training period comprises:-14 days practical experience, completing 2 and 3 day walks.

    • as a participant
    • as a leader
    • in a variety of weather conditions including cold and wet
    • in a variety of venues including the Flinders Ranges north of Wilmington and in the Grampians or equivalent with a variety of groups: including juvenile or school group and an adult group.

    A Record Book is issued and used to record experience during the interim training period.

    3. Bushwalking Leadership Certificate (BLSA )

     Upon successful completion of the interim training period, candidates must successfully complete the following assessment components:

    • Theory Exam
    • Seminar weekend or equivalent
    • Personal Skills Assessment (2 days)
    • Group Management Assessment (2 days)

    4. Advanced Bushwalk Leader Interim Training

    Following successful completion of the Bushwalking Leader Certificate, candidates may wish to continue to the advanced phase. 14 days practical experience is required, completing 3 and 4 day walks:

    • as a participant
    • as a leader
    • in the Central or Northern Flinders Ranges
    • in the highland areas of Eastern Australia, New Zealand or Tasmania
    • in hot and dry conditions

    In addition candidates must complete training in steep terrain group management and complete General Mountain Training or its equivalent.

    5. Advanced Bushwalking Leader Assessment
    Upon successful completion of the advanced interim period candidates must complete the following assessment components:

    • Theory Exam
    • Advanced Group Management Assessment

    View other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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    Bushwalk Leadership Training | How to Change a Club’s Training Culture

    How do you change the Club culture? How do you encourage leaders to improve their skills? Should leaders be required to under take some training each year to retain their leadership “accreditation”?  What sort of training would be appropriate?

    It would be rather presumptuous of me to suggest that there is only one answer to this complex problem, which has troubled many a Club’s Training and Safety Officer. Any solution will however need to recognise that this will be a significant change for many Club members and hence to be successful will involve proven change-management techniques.

    No doubt any possible solution will include at least some of the following:

    • recognition by Club members that the Club’s leadership skills need to be improved.
    • belief in the need for training by the Club Committee, followed by adequate consultation to design the program and then promotion by prominent Committee members.
    • commencement with a small and carefully selected program which will be acceptable to leaders and can be successfully completed by all
    • involvement of respected “elders” in the Club, both as instructors and participants
    • recognition of those who have participated in, and provided, the training
    • awareness raising by having one of the participants outline what they learned at a Club meeting or newsletter

    An annual accreditation requirement could be used to encourage  participation in leadership training, but this needs to be delicately handled to avoid putting “experienced” leaders offside. Leaders could be expected to gain a minimum of 10 points per year  (equivalent to 6 hrs training) to retain their leadership “credentials”.

    Some non-threatening examples could be:

    • Senior First Aid Refresher  (10 pts)
    • GPS use (2 pts)
    • PLB use (2 pts)
    • Pre-trip planning ( 2-5 pts)
    • Stove types, use and maintenance (2 pts)
    • Dehydrator use and menus (2 pts)
    • Navigation refresher ( 5-10 points)
    • Ultra-lightweight backpacking ( 2 pts)
    • Lightweight cooking and menus ( 2-5 pts)

    For those who want some more theoretical training

    The accreditation requirement (10 pts)  should be incorporated into an annual  Leadership Training Weekend, with topics being rotated from year to year.

    To make the process less threatening, some of this training could be carried out by “expert” Club mentors during Club walks or on a one-to-one basis. It should be possible in each Club to establish a list of “go-to” people who would be willing to make themselves available for specific skills training. Leaders who were prepared to give training sessions for other leaders could be credited with double the number of points that a participant would gain.

    Some Clubs have a policy of subsidizing leaders who attend accredited training courses, if they are willing to pass on the knowledge and skills they have learnt. This not only encourages participation in training in a positive way but shows that the Club values training and this is an important step in changing a Club culture which is less than enthusiastic about the importance of training.

    View other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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    Bushwalk Leadership Training | The Need for a Change in Club Culture

    Which skills do Club bushwalk leaders sometimes lack? Why is there often a Club “anti-training” culture?

    Over the years I have walked with many different bushwalk leaders and from each I have learnt new bushwalking skills. Sometimes I have noticed contradictions, but there is rarely the opportunity to question and if there is, it is sometimes difficult not to offend, appear to challenge the status quo or appear critical.

    Formal bushwalk training, undertaken through organisations such as Bushwalking Leadership SA, actually encourages and expects participants to ask questions. The presenters welcome people challenging their ideas and because of their active involvement in leadership training are aware of differences in techniques and are able to offer alternatives, based on their own experience and that of others.

    In my experience, many Club leaders sometimes have limited skills in group management and don’t see there is any need to develop them. They often believe that they are leading a group of peers who are able to look after themselves. They fail to recognise that most Club walks have new members who need to be made welcome and integrated into the group if they are to remain Club members. They fail to recognise that often walks have “dependents”, who despite their maturity, are inexperienced in terms of bushwalking skills and need to be actively “supported”. They often fail to accept, that as the “leader”, their personal needs become subservient to the group as a whole.

    Have you ever walked in a group where the leader is at the front, sometimes a long way in front, and is oblivious to the needs of the unfit “newbies” struggling at the back, with their overweight packs? If they are aware, have they offered to redistribute equipment so the group as a whole can make more rapid progress? Have you often worried, as “tail-end-charlie”, which way the group has gone at the intersection and wondered why the leader didn’t wait until everyone had arrived before moving off. Have you ever arrived last at a group break and found that instead of the 10 minutes everyone else got, that you got just 3 mins?

    Have you ever watched an inexperienced or unskilled leader waiting for the group to assemble at the predetermined start time? How do they treat the “new member” who has failed to allocate sufficient time in the morning to get gear packed, have breakfast and attend to personal hygiene? Do they offer to help personally, assign someone who is already packed to help or do they stand there impatiently and then make comments about the “regrettable” late start?

    Risk management skills are often intuitive among bushwalk leaders. They have often learnt over many years, usually by trial-and-error, what dangers there are in particular locations and at particular times of the year. This works fine provided they don’t venture outside of their “known world”, but do they have the knowledge and skills to cope if the circumstances fall outside their personal experience?

    Some Club bushwalk leaders would see any attempt to encourage them to attend training courses as a criticism of their leadership credentials and therefore a personal attack. Some are blissfully unaware of the potential risks of their leadership style while others would see their attendance at a training course as an admission that they have something still to learn and a reflection on their status as a “Club elder”.

    Fortunately, there are many others who see their bushwalking “careers” as a continual learning experience, who are open to new ideas and are aware of their role and obligations as bushwalk leaders.

    The task is to convince the less enthusiastic  leaders that there are still things to learn which will make Club walks more enjoyable for everyone.

    Visit other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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    Bushwalk Leadership Training | Is it necessary?

    Do bushwalk leaders need training from qualified instructors? Can you learn on-the-job?  Will formal leadership training spoil the informality of Club walks?

    First of all, I have to admit that I need no convincing of the benefits of skill training for the outdoors.  I have always believed that training from qualified and experienced practitioners is the best and quickest way to develop skills and confidence in the outdoors. Whenever I have wanted to broaden my outdoor skills,  seeking qualified instructors has always been my first step, and I have then applied this training in my own environment and refined it to suit my personality and goals.

    The argument about whether young adults should be taught to drive by their parents or by a qualified driving instructor is similar in my view to how you should learn a new outdoor skill? When I decided to get a small  bus licence a few years ago, my employer paid for some lessons and this taught me that parents are not the best instructors for a learner-driver to have. I soon found that I had developed lots of bad habits over the many years since I first sat for my own driving test, some of which would have been sufficiently serious to fail me in my bus driving test, if not corrected. What if I had tried to teach my own children to drive? Would I have passed on my bad habits to them?

    Learning-on-the-job is often the best way to learn, but only if the mentor has kept up-to-date with recent advances and has broad experience outside the Club. Many Clubs have a leadership structure where “leaders-in-training” are assessed and coached by experience Club members, almost all of whom have had no formal training and most of whom, have learnt from other “senior” Club members, who in turn have learnt from other “senior” Club members. There is a real risk that bad habits are passed from one generation of Club members to the next and that this “in-breeding” becomes a Club tradition.

    Some Clubs are openly antagonistic to ideas from outside which threaten the status quo and challenge the Club’s way of doing things. Sadly I can recall many years ago, when I was about to attend my first Club walk, being warned never to mention I had any formal bushwalking training.

    In many Clubs things have not changed.

    Formal leadership and skills training should not spoil the informality of Club walks, rather it should improve the enjoyment and safety of all.

    Visit other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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    Are the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) Relevant to Bushwalking Clubs?

    Are the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) relevant to bushwalking Clubs? What are the benefits of adopting the AAS for bushwalking Clubs? What changes would need to be made to Club organisation to do so? Are their legal implications if AAS were adopted? How do the AAS mesh with Club risk management?

    “The Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) are voluntary guidelines for undertaking potentially risky activities in a manner designed to promote:

    1. Safety for both participants and providers,
    2. Protection for providers against legal liability claims and criminal penalties, and
    3. Assistance in obtaining insurance cover.

    These AAS are NOT statutory standards imposed by law.” (Recreation SA, Bushwalking AAS 2006)

    What could be more relevant than that to a bushwalking Club?

    Two key statements appear in the AAS:

     “The AAS ……reflects minimal acceptable standards of behaviour expected when planning and undertaking outdoor adventure activities with inexperienced and dependent participants.”

    This statement  makes it clear that the AAS are minimal standards which all Clubs should already have adopted when leaders are taking inexperienced walkers and therefore dependent walkers, on Club walks. Dependent does not mean school age, it means having to rely upon others for their safety and well being. In most Club walks there are dependents, whose safety is sometimes ignored by leaders, simply because the leader thinks that as adults they are responsible for their own safety.  The AAS makes it clear that this is not the case.

    “Regardless of the extent to which the AAS is adopted, each organisation, guide and leader has a duty of care to its participants to have completed a risk analysis of the activity, and developed a risk management approach to address potential and unexpected situations.”  (Recreation SA, Bushwalking AAS 2006)

    Many Clubs don’t take this seriously, with few leaders skilled in making a risk analysis for a bushwalk and even less having the necessary experience to anticipate risks. Pre-walk documentation is often sadly lacking and there is sometimes little vetting of this documentation where it is provided.

    Benefits of AAS

    I believe adoption of the AAS by Clubs will provide a framework and focus for upgrading the skills of  leaders, which will in turn make walks more enjoyable and safer for participants. The AAS have a focus on risk management and hopefully this will provide the impetus for each Club to develop their own risk management policies.

    Each AAS has been developed in the following key areas:

        * Planning
        * Responsibility of the leaders
        * Equipment
        * Environment.

    Changes Needed.

    To adopt the AAS, your Club will probably need to do some of the following:

    • fine tune your Club walks (group size, leader; assistant: participant ratios, communication)
    • both broaden and deepen your training, both external and internal, to meet the needs of any proposed  leadership structure that you decide to adopt (eg first aid, clothing, group equipment, environment)
    • document the informal procedures your leaders already follow and do very well (eg activity plan, pre-trip documentation, risk management, emergency strategy)
    • more formally and transparently map your leaders and participants skills and experience with the walks they are allowed to lead and partake (eg restrict participation, devise a participation grid)
    • better inform participants of their obligations (eg voluntary assumption of risk,  inherent risks)
    • review the legal implications of your Club’s Constitution and Mission statement (duty to warn, waivers)

    Legal Implications

    If you can show that you have a transparent and public process to approve leaders and participants for walks based on their skill level and experience, then current advice is that you should be safe from legal claims and penalties.

    Are the AAS a liability?  Read more from an alternative viewpoint

    To download the relevant Adventure Activity Standards (AAS) click on one of the links below

    NSW  AAS
    Victorian AAS
    Western Australian AAS
    South Australian AAS
    Queensland AAS
    Tasmania AAS

    For a less positive viewpoint on the value of the Adventure Activity Standards visit the Adventure Victoria website

    Visit other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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    Bushwalk Leadership Training | A Weekend Club Training Program

    A Bushwalk Leaders weekend held at least once a year is essential so that all Club walk leaders can fulfill their duty of care. Aspiring leaders and those who have let their skills get a little rusty, will all benefit.

    SESSION 1: Map Reading

    SESSION 2:  Navigation

    The following two sessions could be held on the  second day, basing it on the Adventure Activity Standards (AAS)

    SESSION 3: Trip Planning (2-3 hours)

    Prerequisites: knowledge of bearings and how to use a compass to plot a route

    This could follow the outline given in the AAS p13-15,

    1.1 Considerations for developing an activity plan …13
    1.2 Pre-trip documentation …………………………………14
    1.3 Risk management…………………………………………14
    1.4 Emergency strategy……………………………………..15
    1.5 Restriction to participation ……………………………15

    but could be  supplemented by local examples, templates and a hands-on trial using a well known area. Online resources and access by blog (preferred option), phone and email to mentors willing to provide assistance on specific topics would be provided. Participants, working together in pairs, would need to be provided with maps and compasses.

    SESSION 4: Role of Leader (1-2 hours)

    This would largely follow AAS pp 15-21,

    2 Responsibilities of the trip leader/assistant  (1-2 hrs) p15

    2.1 Skills expected of a leader p16

    2.1.1 Bushwalking Leader on ‘Urban walks’ p16
    2.1.2 Bushwalking Leader on Tracked or Easy Untracked (Easy) p16
    2.1.3 Bushwalking Leader on Difficult and Trackless (Intermediate) p17
    2.1.4 Bushwalking Leader on Unmodified landscapes (Advanced) p18

    2.2 First aid p18
    2.3 Specific responsibilities of the trip leader  p19
    2.4 Assistant to the trip leader  p19
    2.5 Communication p20
    2.6 Ratios of trip leader and assistant/s to participants p20
    2.7 Group size  p21

    but would be modified to suit your Club based on your knowledge of current practices and be developed in consultation with several senior club members, who have some empathy for the AAS. Online resources and access by blog (preferred option), phone and email to mentors willing to provide assistance on specific topics would provided.

    The third session would work better if it were in a well lit environment where maps could be laid flat eg tables and chairs.

    Additional Sessions

    1. Suitable for either day, a session on what to do if lost, from both the lost and the searcher’s perspective would be useful. This seems to be under emphasized or missing from the pre-walk briefing given by most walk leaders. Perhaps a few preventative measures could be presented. With the tendency for Club walks to have a long tail which is often out of contact with the leader, this is an obvious danger.
    2. With an aging Club membership,  you might like to include  a session dealing with heart attacks and managing your group after a serious incident such as this.

    View other relevant posts in this Bushwalk Leadership Series

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    Bushwalking Rescue: Emergency Evacuation by Helicopter

    Have you ever needed a helicopter rescue? Ever raised the alarm using your (personal locator beacon) PLB or marine EPIRB? What can you do to make the landing or winching site safer? How can you attract attention and give signals to a circling aircraft? What information do you need to provide?

    Well I’m fortunate and have never needed a helicopter rescue, neither has anyone in any of my groups. Nor have I ever had to raise the alarm using my PLB (personal locator beacon) or EPIRB, but I have walked in lots of areas in Tasmania where this is a regular occurrence, either due to poor weather, bushfire or injury.

    On occasions, I have seen a helicopter circling and wondered whether someone is in trouble. On one occasion I was approached on a track by Parks and Wildlife staff who had been in radio contact with a rescue helicopter which had been circling and were trying to locate a person who had set off an EPIRB (emergency beacon) and then left the spot, tuning off their beacon when they left.

    On most of my walks into isolated areas I have taken an EPIRB ( no longer licensed), now replaced by a PLB. Walking in the Gammon Ranges and further north I have taken a VHF radio for communication with nearby homesteads. Along the south coast and south west coast of Tasmania,  I have taken a marine radio for communication with passing fishing boats. Of course I always have my signalling mirror and mobile phone with me!

    Alerting Rescue Services

    Modern technology has provided us with several devices

    NB Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife has PLBs for hire

      Alert Detection

      Radio distress beacons operate on 406 MHz with a 121.5 MHz transmission feature being used for final stage homing.
      NOTE: After 1 Feb 2010, old analogue EPIRBs and PLBs operating on 121.5 MHz are no longer licenced for use.
      The technology of distress beacons is so advanced that the location of the boat, aircraft or individual in distress can be calculated to a search area of as little as 110m with a digital 406 MHz beacon, if encoded with GPS.
      A digital 406 MHz beacon can relay much more information than simply the distress location.  When registered properly with AMSA, 406 MHz distress beacon can provide the RCC Australia with information such as the registration details of the aircraft, vessel or vehicle as well as emergency contact names and contact numbers.   This may allow further information to be gathered relating to the type of craft, survival gear carried and the number of people on board etc.  REGISTRATION IS FREE.
      After defining the search area, aircraft or other rescue craft rely on homing equipment to locate the beacon’s exact position.
      It is important that once a beacon is switched on in a distress situation you should not switch it off until rescue has been affected or you are advised to by the rescue authority. ”  Australian Marine Safety Authority

        Traditional methods include

        • lighting signal fires: three fires in a triangle for an emergency.  Have green vegetation handy to create smoke.
        • signaling with a mirror:  lightweight signaling mirrors with a hole in the middle to assist location are cheap
        • laying out markers and recognised symbols

        Ground to Air Signals

        • V require assistance
        • X require medical assistance
        • SOS: repetition of 3 signals, separated by a minute

        The following universal signals  are for strip signals, recommended to be built from rocks or tree branches or dug in the ground and are designed to be seen from the air. Make your signal big ( 6 -10m  by 1 m, with at least 3 m between symbols) so that it can be seen from a distance, and select a highly visible location.

        Wilderness Survival Forum

        N – No, Negative
        Y,  or A – Yes, Affirmative
        A square – require map and compass

        Preparing the landing area

        • Chopper can only descend vertically 15 metres
        • Select landing spot with clear approach and exit into the wind, clear 25m diam landing spot with a further 5m no more than 60 cm high, no more than 10% slope.
        • Mark landing area with a large H
        • Streamers or smoke to mark wind direction
        • Clear the landing spot of loose debris. Eye protection should be worn.
        • Approach helicopter from front & lower side on slope only when signaled.

        Abandoning Camp

        If you have to abandon camp, leave clear direction markers to show where you have gone and continue to mark the track, so you know if you have doubled back.


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        Risk Management on a Bushwalk

        The biggest risk on a bushwalk is a mismatch between the leader’s skill level, the participant’s past experience and the difficulty of the walk.

        The leader’s skill level must match closely the terrain, degree of isolation and the weather expected. That is why most leadership courses are tiered:

        • Day walk leader
        • Bushwalk leader
        • Advanced bushwalk leader

        The Adventure Activity Standards [AAS] has a good outline of the differences in skill level required at each tier and distinguishes three levels of difficulty

        1. Bushwalking Leader on Tracked or Easy Untracked (Easy)

        Tracked or easy untracked areas are reliably marked on maps and are obvious on the
        ground. Tracks are inspected on a regular basis and road or other safe catching features
        are easily reached within 2 hours by applying elementary navigation principles.

        2. Bushwalking Leader on Difficult and Trackless (Intermediate)

        Difficult or trackless areas are where there are limited modifications to the natural
        surface so that track alignment is indistinct in places; there is minimal clearance along
        the track; signage is minimal and only for management purposes; there are terrain and
        man-made hazards (such as cliff lines or dense forests); the possibility for changes in
        weather and visibility exists.

        3. Bushwalking Leader on Unmodified landscapes (Advanced)

        Unmodified landscapes are those which are totally natural where there are no
        modifications to the natural surface so that track alignment is indistinct and no clearance
        along the track; there is no signage; the track is not managed for public risk and where
        the onset of extreme environmental conditions has a significant adverse impact upon the

        Few Clubs have a formal structure to match the difficulty of the walk with the skills of the leader. Often this “approval” is an ad hoc process which involves the Club’s Walk’s Secretary, but without a formal structure it can fail eg when a there is a changeover of personnel or when the Walks Secretary has not actually walked the area himself/herself. There is a vast difference in being able to lead a walk along the Heysen trail and leading one into untracked and isolated areas such as the Mawson Plateau in SA or the Western Arthurs in Tasmania

        Matching the experience of the participants with the difficulty of the walk is usually much better handled. Usually Club walks are coded according to difficulty, duration, and terrain so in theory the participants should self-select for the walks and there should be no problem.

        Problems arise when the intended participant has no experience in the area to be walked and does not appreciate the difference between walking with a day pack in sunny weather along a well marked trail and carrying a 25 kg pack through mountainous terrain with a howling wind and sleet or snow. If the leader does not know the intended walker then there is the potential for this mismatch to be overlooked until it is too late, hence the need for a vetting system.

        One way this problem can be overcome is for all walks to logged on the walker’s profile, along with the name of each leader, so that checks can easily be made of the walkers experience. Without a walker’s log, it is difficult to either locate relevant leaders, or to determine walker’s experience.

        One alternative, is to take the group for a preparatory walk over some hilly terrain with a 25 kg bag of “lawn fertiliser” in each pack and satisfy yourself as leader that they are fit enough. Of course there is more than just physical fitness; mental fitness for a demanding walk is probably more important as is group compatibility.

        Meet with your intended participants and chat about their past experience. Clubs which insist on face-to-face meeting between leaders and potential walkers as a pre-requisite for participation are “on the right track”.

        See also:

        Outdoor Recreation Industry Training Package

        A Risk Management Framework (download pdf) (The Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs NSW, 2004)
        RISK MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES for BUSHWALKING CLUBS  Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs (VicWalk 2004) Inc. (pdf format)
        Guidelines for Leaders and Coordinators (pdf format) Canberra Bushwalking Club (June 2009)
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        This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.